This paper describes a hybrid modelling approach to assess the future development of China’s energy system, for both a “hypothetical counterfactual baseline” (HCB) scenario and low carbon (“abatement”) scenarios. The approach combines a technology-rich integrated assessment model (MESSAGE) of China’s energy system with a set of sector-specific, bottom-up, energy demand models for the transport, buildings and industrial sectors developed by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. By exploring technology-specific solutions in all major sectors of the Chinese economy, we find that a combination of measures, underpinned by low-carbon power options based on a mix of renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, would fundamentally transform the Chinese energy system, when combined with increasing electrification of demand-side sectors. Energy efficiency options in these demand sectors are also important. (c) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.